BJP resorts to playing communal card as usual in the face of resurgent opposition ahead of UP polls

Except for the Congress, all three major parties – the BJP, the SP, and the BSP – are working on their old agenda of communalism and casteism

Representational image
Representational image

Gyan Pathak

Political parties in Uttar Pradesh are trying to position themselves in the most advantageous way they can imagine. Except for Congress, all three major parties – the BJP, the SP, and the BSP – are working on their old agenda of communalism and casteism. Congress has been making leads for the past few months not only by campaigning aggressively but also by setting a new political agenda.

A direct fight between the BJP and the SP was been visualized for months now, but Congress seems to have entered the political chakravyuh laid out by the BJP and SP.

It is a significant change driven in large part by meaningful campaigns led by Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and though quantification of the effect on the ground is still a tough task, the Congress is expected to do well.

The Congress was last in power in the state in 1989 and thereafter, the political agenda in the state was being set by the three other political parties – the BJP, the SP, and the BSP – in different phases.

Violence in Uttar Pradesh against minorities and farmers has now become a major political issue. The agitating farmers’ cause against the anti-farmer farm laws of the Modi government at the Centre was already an issue impacting the length and breadth of Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Western Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress has not only been successful in grabbing attention of the people of the state, but also has hit headlines by announcing 40 per cent political reservation for women in party tickets in the coming assembly elections, promising free smartphones and e-scooters to girls, full farm loan waiver, 20 lakh government jobs for youth, which is the biggest of all promises so far, electricity bill for farmers to be halved plus no electricity bills to be levied for the pandemic period, Rs 25,000 assistance to Covid-affected families, and MSP of Rs 2,500 per quintal for rice and Rs 400 per quintal for sugarcane.

The political surveys have already predicted a fall in share of votes of the BSP. ABP-CVoter had found in its October survey a fall from 22.2 per cent in 2017 to 14.7 per cent, i.e. a 7.5 per cent slump for the party, which is even one per cent more than the September prediction. The political prospect of the BSP does not seem encouraging. Mayawati is trying her best to restore her party’s lost ground but her success in this regard is highly uncertain.

Akhilesh Yadav-led SP’s prospects seem brighter in comparison. The ABP-CVoter survey of October said that SP is likely to get 32.4 per cent of votes as against 23.6 per cent it got in 2017. However, there is every possibility of Yadav falling into the trap of the BJP’s communal politics. For example, he has just taken the name of Md. Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and put him on par with freedom fighters and other founding fathers of India. Such statements could affect a communal polarization on the religious ground that BJP has been most willing to do. It may offset his efforts of ‘social engineering’ and the party may lose even his considerable OBC vote bank. If that happens, it may benefit the BJP the most.

Yogi Adityanath has just asked in a bid to lay the trap, “Will you apologise for firing at Ram Bhaktas in Ayodhya?” It was a direct attack on SP. The BJP leaders are leaving no stones unturned to effect political polarization on communal or religious ground. Even then, their political fortune seems to be dwindling on account of misrule, violence, and leaving the common people just on the mercy of god, as Allahabad HC observed in a case.

The ABP-CVoter survey had predicted in its October edition that the BJP may be able to grab 41.3 per cent of votes as against 41.4 per cent in 2017. This loss would translate into a loss of 76 to 67 seats out of 325 that the NDA had secured in 2017. If we compare it to the September survey results, the BJP has a reason to be worried.

The September Survey had predicted that BJP was most likely to gain 41.8 per cent of votes. The fall within a month was 0.5 per cent, which shows the downhill journey of the party. One month has since passed, and much water had flowed down the Gomati.

Lucknow is thus witnessing a rapid change in the political fortunes of the parties, and the months ahead may bring more surprises.

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